Thursday, February 2, 2012


JCOPE’s New Leadership

I am shocked, not about Ellen Biben’s appointment, that’s a pleasant surprise.

I am shocked that none of the media folks that contacted me today for comment used any of the things I had to say about the appointment.

So to the extent I can be my own media outlet here is what I think.

Is Ellen Biben a first-rate attorney? Yes, there’s no question about that.

Can Ellen Biben do the job at JCOPE? Absolutely, she’s proven herself a capable administrator.

Will Ellen Biben be independent? I’d bank on it.

Will she understand the proper role of the state’s top ethics enforcer? I hope so, but I don’t know for sure, and only time will tell about this point.

Let’s drill down on those last two matters:

Will she be independent? This is the concern of some pundits. They think that because she’s a former Cuomo staffer, she must be in the tank. I disagree. Ms. Biben was a career prosecutor who had a life before her association with Andrew Cuomo. She established a rock solid reputation for herself. Is she going to throw that away now and become a hack? No, that’s not going to happen.

(Remember that I was a Joe Bruno appointee. I had great affection for him, but I wasn’t going to let him or anyone else tell me how to do my job. This is the only attitude to have.)

Will Ms. Biben understand the proper role of being E.D. at JCOPE? I’ll break this down into two broad areas:

First, will she be both aggressive and fair? I think she’s proven to be both as IG. Some people may say that there haven’t been a lot of cases advanced by her office, but those who say that don’t understand the lag time between investigation and resolution. Any new IG (or AG) spends his or her first year putting the office in order and launching investigations. Results come later on. In this regard, all the reports I have read indicate that she has done a good job and has earned the respect of her staff. (This alone will set her apart from the Teitelbaums, Cherkaskys, Feericks and Ginsbergs of the world.)

Second, does she get the intangible ‘it?” Does she know what JCOPE really is and what it isn’t? I really have my doubts that Janet DiFiore gets it. Yes, Ms. DiFiore is a tough prosecutor, but she thinks she’s running a DA’s office when in Albany.

My fear about the Biben selection is only that as a former prosecutor Ms. Biben will have the same bent as Ms DiFiore.  But only time will tell.

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